"My kind of loyalty was to one's country, not to its institutions or its officeholders. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease, and death."
Mark Twain
[Samuel Langhorne Clemens] (1835-1910) American author and humorist
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Reader comments about this quote:
 -- Anonymous      
The sooner we stop the I, me and you, and discuss the us, all, and we, the sooner we shall return to a humane society regardless of country, society or institution – that’s where my loyalty shall rest.
 -- Robert, Sarasota     
     -- Joe, Rochester, MI     
    I find this quote quite appropriate in response to those ideologues who claim that criticism of U.S. foriegn policy is equivalent to "hating America".
     -- Sheldon, Cortez, Co     
     -- P.M.      
    Very apt for today. A house divided against itself will not stand, per Abrham Lincoln. In history up to now, according to the great historiographer, Arnold Toynbee, all great nations and civilizations have committed suicide. Current passionate divisiveness can lead to suicide, even without the help of al-Qaeda.Moreover, in wartime a FEW fine individual rights must be put on the shelf to help WIN the war, because LOSING the war would also mean the losing not a few but ALL individual rights. Pls learn from the Soviet savagery against opinion molders and nationalists in the Baltic States & E. Europe after World War II. Then note the indescriminate slaughter of Iraqis and you'll begin to visualize what could happen in every place where al-Qaeda and the Wahabis try to take over. Shouldn't we have the same amount of courage as Londoners and Isrealis?
     -- Steve Tanner, San Marcos, CA     
    He was a wise and perceptive man, I miss him, but thank goodness he left his humor behind.
     -- Greg, FT. Lauderdale, FL     
    I couldn't give it 5 stars because Twain's attempt to mask the target and dull the barbs left openings for the misguided statists and socialists among us to muddy the water. Such as, "... in war time a FEW fine individual rights must be put on the shelf ...." are the words of a waanabe despot who quotes a despot (Lincoln). I'll make it clear; Twain is saying it is the individual who must enjoy the utmost importance and it is the government and the parasitic bureaucrats within government that cease to function as designed and need to be thrown off like old useless clothing. Replace "the Country" with "the Law" and the Twain's message becomes brutally clear.
     -- Tom Tuka, Beaver Falls     
     -- Calina, Harbin      
    Twain is on target here. So much about politics is not about discusssing policy of the country but about protecting your man. Much now about Iraq seems to be more about being loyal to Bush than being loyal to the country. It has happened before. Napoleon and De Gaulle (and maybe Nixon) all thought they were more important than their countires.
     -- Bruce, Eufaula     
    Tom from Beaver Falls appears to suffer from the malaise that afflicts so many of us. We simply do not want to be governed. When the "parasitic bureaucrats" get the full support of the citizenry by them not hiring illegal aliens, reporting crime, being environmentally helpful, and computing and paying their correct taxes on time we will have a wonderful country. When the citizen gets closer to the idea of "self-government" (doing what is right without government enforcement) the "parasites" will just melt away.
     -- Bruce, Eufaula     
    From threat from the outside, I have loyalty to my country. From within, I have loyalty to the concepts on which this country was founded. This country was founded on the principle of maintaining the rights of the "I" and the "I's" personal property rights in the face of government or an overbearing majority. It was not built on groupism, or forcible unity under the government. The government is an entity of brute force, and is incapble of charity or benevolence, only theft and forcible redistribution of wealth (which is utterly un Constitutional), and is the same as bank robbery. Unfortunately the character of the country is changing or has changed to the point of believing the government, not the "I" is responsible for the "I". I have no loyalty to that concept, or that country. I have loyalty to that concept of individual rights and freedom (the concept of the founders) and the people who promote it. And the war in Iraq is not about "loyalty to Bush" it is about recognition that there is evil in the world and the only way to deal with it is to kill it where ever it rears it's head, or it will kill us. War is ugly I know this personally, but losing a war is uglier, and the only real war crime. Our country may not be tattered but it has become fat and lazy. This quote is dated in that I do not believe Twain would have have believed how dependent on government, to do and think for them, the citizens of this country could become. And a country is really just the some of its people.
     -- helorat, Milton     
    Tom from Beaver Falls said well. When the substantive eternal being (in harmony with the God of Nature's laws) i.e., the Constitutionally loyal (in word and deed) throws off the de facto institutions and office holding 'parasitic bureaucrats' that represent the state instead of the individual sovereign AND, those governors in complicity with the theft of the noble laborer's fruits, and, all forms of licensing, compelled compliance, etc., a new 1776 suit of law may be worn once again to protect the body from political winter, disease, and death.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
    The 'country' is the People -- if you cannot love your 'country', there will be little peace in this world. The 'government' is a corporation without soul and thus cannot love or even be loved except for its material trappings. ;-)
     -- E Archer, NYC     
    If institutions and officeholders work to the benefit of the people, then they deserve loyalty. When they do not, it is time to discard them and find new ones. It seems too many have lost sight of the purpose of government (to protect the individual) and are willing to accept serious flaws that should not be tolerated. Government has morphed into a task master that wants to control individuals' minutest behaviors, when it was meant to be the individuals' servant.
     -- Ken, Allyn, WA     
    Of government, institutions, and people. Do the quotes above about "parasites" sound historically familiar? Tell me of a time that "people" liked government. Tell me of a person who ever said, "I want to be governed". The Hebrews were a stiff necked lot and people have been so ever since. No one wants to be inconvenienced in order to have transportation safety. Many want the benefits and profit from illegally employing illegal aliens. We will keep stiffing each other for profit until our country and society as we know it seizes to exist. When the people begin to govern themselves as responsible citizen adults the number of parasites will diminish. Until that happens we will need more border patrol, more police, more environmental watchdogs, more Internal Revenue Agents, more prosecutors and more jails etcetera. IN A DEMOCRACY THE GOVERNMENT IS THE PEOPLE.
     -- Bruce, Eufaula     
  • 1
     -- Don, cincinnatus ny      
     -- jim k, Austin      
    Mr. Twain is overall a interesting literary individual with a solid resume.  However, this comment is not very balanced.  Without institutions to reform, refine, change, develop the country, its just mainly a big heap of dirt.  Our officials are quite primitive due to our neglecting our responsibilities in improving our institutions.  People are solely and mainly our country. The institutions are urgently needed to shape the people into law abiding citizens.
    Its not to far off to say a country is its institutions. Without positive institutional adjustment you will be left with no people.
     -- Fredrick William Sillik, Anytown     
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